Monday, November 29, 2010

Al Draws Prizes:

Well after posting about my Dad on Saturday I have a change of pace tonight.

It's time to draw the prizes for my giveaway!

I drew the second prize first. The lucky second is: Falen (aka Sarah Ahiers)

Now for the big one: Drum Roll…

And the winner is: Old Kitty (aka Jennifer). Thus proving the benefits of taking a little bribery and corruption :-)

Well I am in a generous mood this evening soooo

I am changing the prizes.

First prize is now:
Six 8” by 10” prints of any of my piccies from this blog; the winner chooses the piccies they want.
OR as an alternative prize, a copy of my book Veiled in Shadows AND three 8” by 10” prints.

Second Prize:
Is now three 8” by 10” prints of any of my piccies from this blog OR a copy of my book .

I know Old Kitty has been printing my extract pages to take on the train, so now you can have a copy that is easier to hold if you choose.

As to Falen, well I know you wanted a copy for Christmas. Now you have the option to get a copy early (if you wish).

So what will you both choose? My book ,or my piccies? Here's a sample
So dear winners you will have to email me and let me know what you want to do.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Rupert: Part I

Last Friday I posted about a love affair. A love affair that resulted in Al entering the picture.

The next consequence of the affair was the entry of my little brother Ian. Thanks to Dad’s dislike of photos this is the only one of Ian as a Baby.

Today I want to talk about my Dad. When I think of him I remember him as something like this.
Still quite young and wearing the beard he has now had for most of his life.
The piccie says so much about Dad. In the photo he is in the bush studying a sand goanna he has caught. Goannas are monitor lizards, in Oz we have 30 species ranging from about 20 cm (8 in) to 2.5 metres (8 ft 2 in). Sand goannas are a middling sized species that grow to about 1.4 metres (4ft 6 in).

Like many people Rupert is an odd mix of contradictions.

He was born into an upper crust family in India. Yet here too there were contradictions. My Grandfather Arthur Russell was a senior police officer, a product of the British Raj (as I have said in previous posts the Russell family's involvement with India began in the 1700s).
Arthur Russell my Grandfather Central Provinces (later Madhya Pradesh) Police

In one momentous way Arthur defied the conventions of the time because he fell in love with Beryl Essai an Indian girl who became my grandmother.
Beryl Essai Russell in her Garden, Madhya Pradesh 1960s
In spite of marrying an Indian woman Arthur was well and truly wedded to the past: to a notion of a powerful Britain with India as a Jewel of Empire.

Perhaps as a reaction to this Dad rebelled, as soon as he could he left India (luckily for me he picked Oz). Once here he went further, becoming a socialist and then a communist in his early 20s. His communism did not last long, ending with Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalin. But his rebellious nature continued as he shifted into the life of a hippy.

The one thing that he did retain that was his father's was a passion for the bush. Although this too changed. The Indian jungle experiences of his youth were those of the Raj, a love of the wild that incorporated hunting, trophies and the like. When he came to Australia this aspect of his character was still intact.

A story my mother tells illustrates this. At one point in Far North Queensland (FNQ) they were broke. Dad's solution was to hunt a crocodile for the valuable skin (today crocodiles are protected in Oz but in the 1960s they were still fair game.) As my mother relates the story Dad stalked as close has he could to a large croc sunning itself on the bank of a river.
Estuarine Crocodile (Salt-water Crocodile)
He aimed his army surplus .303 rifle at the animal and fired. To his frustration the croc disappeared into the murky water.

Then to Mum's alarm Dad dropped the gun and dived in after it. She has always said that was one of her worst moments. She was just pregnant with me, they were right out in the bush and Dad was following a huge crocodile into the water!

She stood on the river bank for what seemed like an eternity and just watched the surface of the cloudy water. After what seemed an age Dad's head broke the surface and he came up dragging the body of the croc by its back leg. Between them they managed to get the animal out of the water and then Mum exploded: “What were you thinking?” she demanded. Dad's response, “I was pretty sure it was dead, I thought it was worth the risk”.
Needless to say Mum put down her foot and that was the last time they hunted crocodile.

Around this period Rupert's attitude to wildlife shifted. He stopped seeing animals as something to be exploited. He always believed in conservation, initially so there would always be wild spaces for people to use and animals to hunt, but now he came to see conservation differently. He came to believe that wildlife and wild places had their own value and should be preserved for their own sake.

Rupert's new views opened new doors, he became an expert in reptiles and later did extensive research on possums in the wet forests and rainforests of FNQ. (American readers should not confuse our possums with your opossums. Ours like yours are marsupials, but there the resemblance mostly ends, we have a large number of species,
Brushtail Possum
from large-cat sized brushtails, to cute mouse sized pygmy-possums there are gliding possums from miniscule feather-tailed gliders to greater gliders which are again about cat sized.)

Perhaps still rebelling, he became a leading conservation activist in the 1970s. Maybe he also drew on his Indian heritage in this as he coordinated a number of Gandhi inspired non-violent protests against developments in places like the Daintree Rainforest (later a World Heritage listed site).

As well as protesting Rupert came up with practical solutions to conservation problems. Perhaps the best example was the concept of linking isolated patches of forest by rope bridges to allow arboreal creatures to cross.

This piccie is of Rupert’s original bridge in FNQ. This original bridge has a tube like hollow box form because Rupert assumed smaller animals would go through the inside to gain protection from hawks and owls (many Oz animals are nocturnal). The concept has been proven through research, although it has been found most animals used the top so recent bridges have been simplified to a single deck. Scattered all up and down the country bridges like this are helping possums and other creatures cross freeways and other man made obstacles.

A quick note about the piccies. Unusually none of these are mine, the older piccies are from family sources, while the wildlife ones are from Wikipedia.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Words on Wednesday: A Really Quick Post

Two things (quick ones because its very late).

First, I got home to a really special surprise this evening.
Deb had bought me a brand new Netbook Computer.

As I said I little while ago I am now commuting an hour each way by train. I’ve wanted a computer to take with me so I can work on my WIP for that time.

Well thanks to Deb I can kick off my writing again.

Two hours a day to write!
How exciting!

Now it’s Wednesday so I’ve posted chapter four of Veiled in Shadows.
In this chapter we meet two new characters, Peter and Danny.
Meanwhile Katharina and Ebi have their first argument.

A random piccie from the archive:
Wetland Point Cook, Victoria

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Swan Watch XIV: Alone

Our baby swan seems to have been abandoned.
As you know Io has been keeping her eye on our little family. She reported that she hadn’t seen the mother swan for the past two days.

When I went down to have a look baby came over towards us.Mother swan was still nowhere to be seen.

Normally cygnets stay with their parents until they can fly at around six months of age, and sometimes until the next brood is hatched.
Baby is around four months old so this is surprising.

On the up side, cygnets feed themselves from the time they hatch and there is plenty of feed around here.
Although he/she seems a little young baby is not likely to fall prey to hawks or the like. Also baby seems more cautious on its own, staying well clear of us.I’ve got my fingers crossed that things work out OK, I’ll keep you posted.

Friday, November 19, 2010

In which Al enters the Picture.

A little while ago I did a post based on my early teen years in Mum’s patch of the country.

I promised I would carry on with more of the story. Well I am starting that story again only… and it is a fairly big only… I am jumping about thirteen or fifteen years further into the past.

The early 1960s a man and a woman meet and fall in love.

He was from India. As an Anglo-Indian in a racist world, living in what was Redneck Australia he was (I think) tormented. She was desperately unhappy in a marriage to a man who would not let her return home to visit her ailing father in England.

They are both married to other people and have children. Yet despite that and despite the standards of the time they leave together. He never looks back, she regrets always leaving her son and daughter with the man she no longer loves.

About two years later I was born…

Meet my father, Rupert Russell. This is what he was like in my earliest memories (and amazingly I do remember these times). He was young and fit and a lover of wild places. But it is almost impossible to find a picture of him in this period. He was a thinker (some might argue a philosopher) and he had some funny thoughts. Like me he was and is a writer (find a small sample here). One of the thoughts he had in this period was that people should not have their photo taken. Hence no photos of him.

And... no photos of me as a baby. Which brings me to this piccie. Mum holds a gate somewhere in western NSW so Dad can drive through. Next to her a two year old Al.This is the oldest picture of me in existence. Don’t I look a serious little fellow?

As I said Dad was a lover of the wilds. He grew up in an India that was still even then largely jungle and learnt a passion for the wild from his father. So one of the things we did when they weren’t moving around looking for work was go out into the bush and camp.

Here is one of the few piccies of my Dad from then. Mum got up and snapped him as he slept. The tousled little head next to his is mine.

A detail I had never noticed before on the car are some packets of dri-tot nappies (diapers). I have always known that the mosquito net in the car window was there to protect my little brother Ian from the flies. He was a tiny newborn at the time of this trip. So he slept in a bassinet in the car.

This little photo of Mum was taken a few days later on the same camping trip.And now a discovery. I have always treasured this photo as one from my early days. I scanned it a few years ago so I could have a copy. But tonight I blew it up so I could look at it for this post and I saw something I had never noticed in the little 2” by 2” print.
Al enters the picture.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Words on Wednesday

I'm in the habit now.

It's Wednesday and I've posted another chapter of Veiled in Shadows (Click on the tab above ).

This chapter takes place the week after Ebi danced with Katharina. Ebi sees her going into a tea-house with her father. Intrigued after their previous encounters he feels compelled to say hello...

Another random piccie from the archive.
A waterfall in Gippsland, Victoria.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Guest Post

Tonight I am doing a guest post over at Hart Johnson's Blog Confessions of a Watery Tart, hop over and have a look.
A random Piccie from the archive, a gold rush era mansion in Richmond a suburb of Melbourne.
Isn't it gloriously over the top?
Also, if you haven't seen it check out my Giveaway

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Swan Watch XIII.

I am sorry but I have again failed to post more about my youth. My intention is to say more, but not tonight. I am too tired to travel down memory lane.

So instead I’ll do a very brief no think post.

It is couple of weeks since I have seen our swans, I haven’t been worried because Io has been keeping an eye on them and reporting on their progress every few days.
Mum and the remaining baby are still doing very well.
I think they are a favourite of many locals and have become used to being fed. When I arrived at their pond they came steaming straight over towards me.Baby continues to grow although not quite at the same explosive rate.He/she is fully feathered now although he/she doesn’t seem to have fully grown flight feathers yet.Baby’s beak is just beginning to change colour taking on a hint of the red that it will one day be.
As I left I captured this swamp hen.
And this coot popped out of the reeds:
With a baby in tow.Unlike baby swans, baby coots are, well there is no other way to say it, really, really ugly!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Generosity All Round.

Well I am endlessly amazed by the generosity of this bloggy community.

As you know I have just recently had the pleasure of announcing the availability of my new novel Veiled in Shadows (incidentally I have a giveaway running at the moment for which a copy is one of the choices of prize). It is in relation to this that I am talking of our “little” community’s generosity.

First when I asked for reviewers I had people stepping straight forwards to offer reviews. This is very far from the potential experience for an independent first timer like me. It would have been all too easy for my request to have been greeted by deafening silence.

Then Christy Pinheiro sent me a copy of her new book The Official Indie Book Reviewer List.
As a self published author Christy has put a lot of thought and effort into developing a resource to help self publishers get their work reviewed. She has had a list of reviewers available for some time on her website. Recently though, Christy has put even more effort into turning her list into an e-book which gives more details on each of the reviewers.

If you are interested Christy has the e-version for sale at 99 cents. I am hoping to get at least another half dozen reviews from Christy’s list so I think it is a great resource for people looking for reviews, check out her website.

Then when I got home tonight I found a Royal Mail package from the UK.
The return address was Kathleen Jones’ and inside a copy of her beautiful new biography Katherine Mansfield: The Story Teller.
For those of you who don’t know Mansfield is considered to be one of the leading short story writers of the early 20th Century. She had an unconventional life before dying tragically young of tuberculosis.

Kathleen initially asked for a copy of Veiled in Shadows to review. Then almost immediately she emailed me back to say she would buy her own copy to save me some cost. In the meantime I had already ordered a copy to go directly from The Book Depository. Kathleen’s response was to say that she would send me a copy of her book as a thankyou.
To say I am impressed is to understate the matter. A beautiful hardback by a feted British biographer in exchange for my paperback.

And Kathleen has made a lovely note in the frontispiece. Somehow I think I got the better end of the deal.
Thank you Kathleen.

I can’t even do Kathleen the favour of saying go out and buy a copy. Due to the downturn in publishing Kathleen’s UK publisher have pulled out. At the moment Katherine Mansfield seems to be available only in New Zealand. It’s not on Amazon, while the Book Depository have a page it lists as “out of stock”.

Fortunately, it looks like The Edinburgh University Press may shortly bring out a UK edition.

In the mean time I highly recommend Kathleen’s blog it’s one of my favourites.

Finally, I promised more of about my odd youth. It will post more soon, I promise.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Words on Wednesday: Bribery and Corruption

I hate to disappoint those of you who were hoping I’d post more about my youth.
But I have the urge to post more of my novel Veiled in Shadows.

I will try to post more about Mum’s place and my youth next time.

If by some chance you are interested and have not read any of my literary venture you can find my Prologue and Chapter One by clicking the tabs above. Now of course I have added Chapter Two.

There is a bit of a change of pace in this Chapter, but I guess those of you who have read so far will check it out.

Now for my attempt at bribery and corruption.
I think I am over due for running another Giveaway on my blog.

Like last time the prize will be prints of some of my piccies.

Last time I gave away three piccies to Christine from Inwardly Digesting.

I guess I have to top that so this time I will offer two prizes.

First Prize:
Five 8” by 10” prints of any of my piccies from this blog. The winner chooses the piccies they want, OR a copy of my book which ever you prefer.

Second Prize:
Three 8” by 10” prints of any of my piccies from this blog.

As last time there are just a few caveats: a small number of the piccies on the blog are not mine, I can’t give away prints of those; and a few piccies are cropped from larger images and would not print well at 8” by 10”, if the winner really wanted those I could organise smaller prints.

The rules to enter the give away:
1. The competition is open to people anywhere in the world.

2. You must be a follower of my blog (new followers are welcome to enter too).

3. You must leave a comment on this post, leaving a comment gains you one entry.
(This is I guess a free entry for those of you who are not corruptible).

4. True to form my mercenary side comes out, if you post about my giveaway on your blog I will give you an extra 2 entries.

5. If you mention my book and link to this post I will give you another 2 entries for a total of 5.

I will keep entries into the giveaway open until Sunday the 28th of November 2010 to give people time to enter.
Once I have chosen the winners at random (my decision will be final) I will contact them so they can choose the piccies they would like to receive as prints.

Now just a few reminders of what you could win:

Are You tempted?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Out the Back

Well the votes were cast and the result is in. It surprises me that it was quite as firm as it is. Based on the count so far 100% of you want me to post about my Mum’s place. Although a few of you did have a “bet each way”.

I had a look through my piccies of my trip to Mum’s and they took me in a different direction to that I had originally intended when I thought about this post.

A couple of days into my visit Stan (Mum’s husband) and I set off “out the back”. I posted this piccie of Stan’s old Land Rover the other day because it was the vehicle we went out in. In case you wondered it’s a 1963 “series II” model (which means it’s around my vintage).

Mum and Stan’s holdings are divided in two: the front block where their house is; and about four miles away (and about 1000 feet higher) is the “back block”.

I took a piccie from inside the Land Rover.It’s not a great photo because I was bouncing around as the vehicle climbed the steep track. The scrub in this piccie is all regrowth from the past twenty years or so. Unlike most of Oz this north east corner of NSW is very wet and the forest begins reclaiming undisturbed country very quickly.

Out the back, we climbed into low clouds, so what is normally a beautiful view of mountain country all around was concealed.

Our destination was this little mill cottage (mill as in timber mill) that Stan relocated out the back in the 1970s. Deb, my three girls and I lived here for a few years when the kids were little. But in more ways than that this trip really was a trip into my memories.

Just beyond the wall of mist in this piccie lies a huge chunk of my childhood. As I mentioned once before Mum and Stan met because we were neighbours.

I say in my profile I am the child of Hippy parents, I’m not exaggerating. In the 1970s Mum, her then partner Johnny, my brother Ian and me moved onto the property next door to Stan’s.

Here I am at the age of about 14. These old photos were mostly taken by Ian and me on a very cheap Kodak 110 camera we had.

This is one of mine, from about 1976 or so. As you can see I am still taking photos with similar subject matter decades later, some things never change ;-)I like the above piccie of a huge tree fern because it hints at the view beyond. You might be able to see a track that comes out of the forest in the bottom left, in fact that is the track Stan and I followed to get out here on my recent trip.

It was a strange childhood I lived. At times incredibly poverty stricken, and lacking many of the comforts most of us take for granted.

Yet at the same time incredibly rich in experience. Here Johnny loads timber cut off our land.
Timber that was cut so we could build this shack. The old lady in the piccie is my Grandma, Mum’s Mum.

Here she is sitting on my lap in this family portrait. Grandma had come out from England to stay with us for a year or so. She came from a tidy neat little village in England.

I think she probably thought we were all mad, but she loved us and took it all in her stride. Like my mum, she was an amazing person.

In our shack we had no power, so no TV. Lighting was a 19th century mix of candles and lamps. Entertainment was playing cards or reading. I read anything and everything I could get my hands on. I guess my already strong love of books was set in concrete in that period.

It’s late now and I have to hit the sack for an early start. But tell me shall I go on with my little slice of a personal history when I next post?